Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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The BioPlata Project

An innovative biodiversity project in South America

BioPlata, a Uruguayan/Argentine cooperative project, involving the development of an electronic information system on the biological diversity of the Rio de la Plata estuary, kicks off in July 1997. The first step of this challenging project is made possible by financial contributions from the Uruguayan government and UNESCO. Expert Centre for Taxonomic Identification (ETI) provides the support in information technology. The UNESCO office in Montevideo coordinates this project.

The BioPlata project is a close collaboration between ETI and research institutes and scientists in Uruguay and Argentina. The aim is to produce in five years a detailed overview of the aquatic fauna diversity of the Rio de la Plata. The project is organized into two phases. The inventory phase will survey all existing expertise and literature and produce a species checklist for the region. The second phase will concentrate on building an interactive multimedia information system, including detailed species descriptions and illustrations, computer-assisted identification keys and information on distribution. This system will be made available on CD-ROM and the Internet with technical support from ETI. ETI's Linnaeus II software will provide the computer technological bases for the project.

  A class, during a course on Linnaeus II, held in Montevideo in September 1997

The BioPlata Information System is of major importance to science and education as it will provide a reference work for the biological diversity of the region that is as complete as possible. It will provide an up-to-date baseline study to identify gaps in knowledge and serve as a guideline for further work to document the area. Last but not least, the BioPlata information system will provide valuable biological information to support decisions on responsible management of this vast area and its biological resources.

The advantage of the BioPlata biodiversity information system is that such electronic reference systems can be continuously updated and extended without substantial costs. Both the Internet and compact discs provide relatively cheap information delivery methods, enabling dissemination of recently updated data. Also, the BioPlata system, as central source of information, will allow easy extraction of data that may be interesting for printed output. By including additional information on the species and multimedia materials (pictures, sounds, videos) the BioPlata information system may also have growing importance as a resource for education.

With the BioPlata project, Uruguay and Argentina have taken a big step forward, both in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity and by applying innovative and challenging technologies in biological diversity studies.

From: ETI Partners Newsletter vol. 4 No. 1, June 1997, p.3

For more information contact:

Dr. Silvia Mendez: UNESCO-Montevideo Office
Avenida Brasil 2697, PO Box 859
11300 Montevideo, Uruguay

Fax: (598-2) 772 140


Dr. Peter Schalk: Director, ETI
University of Amsterdam

fax +31 20 525 7238

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